In our last podcast, Brandon prepped us for our discussion of a notably contentious political figure, President Trump, by using a tag line that he had used at a previous Creating You event, “Debate Without Hate.” As a sucker for all rhyme based catch phrases, I instantly loved it. While we did indeed live up to the line in our discussion, providing an example of how differing view points can interact respectfully, I figured today I’d work on a brief list of guidelines for what we mean. Please note, this is NOT a comprehensive list. There are nearly infinite ways people can practice debate without hate, and these are simply a few key ones that I’ve found helpful.
- Listen. This being first on the list may strike you as odd for a couple reasons. You may think it strange that the first thing needed in a debate, generally seen as an opportunity to convince the other person of your point, would be listening. On the other hand, you may think it so obvious that it isn’t worth inclusion at all. Either way, it has been my experience, nearly without exception, that people are far more inclined to listen to what you have to say AFTER you have made it clear that you will genuinely listen to what they have to say. NOTE: This does not include listening for buzzwords so that you can unleash your preplanned, genius counterpoints. People hate that. Knock it off.
- Admit your shortcomings. The person you’re talking with already knows or assumes you’re imperfect. No sense faking it now. When you don’t know something, when you misspeak, or if, heaven forbid, you realize you were in the wrong, admit it. It is an almost life changing experience to talk with someone who has the humility and vulnerability to admit to a mistake. It’s also contagious. You aren’t surrendering ground, you’re acknowledging your humanity, and inviting the person you’re talking with to do the same.
- Seek understanding, not winning. I love competition. I’m a sports nerd. In many circumstances, competition can bring out the best in everyone involved. Many, but not all. The point of a debate shouldn’t be to beat the other person, or even necessarily to convince them. It should be about seeking mutual understanding. At the end of the debate, hopefully you have a better understanding of their perspective, and they have a better idea of yours. If one of you comes to change your minds in the conversation, or in the process of reflecting on the conversation later, then that’s great. But it’s more likely to happen naturally rather than as the result of a vicious brow beating. None of us enjoy having someone cram their opinions down our throats. In fact, the mere attempt makes us so defensive as to almost rule out the possibility entirely.
Like I said, this is not an exhaustive list, heck, it’s only three items long, but it is a good start. If you follow all three of these, you’ll undoubtedly be able to debate without hate. Hit us up with your suggestions for things you’ve found foster a friendly, respectful discussion, even in the midst of disagreement.